Great creative adds value to the company's bottom line, proclaimed Bruce McColl, global chief marketing officer, Mars, during a presentation with David Lubars, worldwide chief creative officer, BBDO at the Cannes Lions festival last week.
The two executives underscored a common message heard throughout the festival that creativity is best when served with an emotional or authentic message.
"Imprison your creatives if you want bad work," says McColl.
Mars has experienced both ends of advertising acclaim. For eight years, Mars won only 24 Lions despite its massive output for brands like Wrigley, Skittles, Snickers, and Purina.
Then, in the eight years following, having reevaluated its creative strategy with its agency BBDO, Mars received 112 Lions and award-winning campaigns are credited with boosting Mars revenue more than $50 million, says McColl.
While many brands blame their agencies for disappointing projects, McColl says it "takes two to do bad work: the agency and the client." And both must make adjustments in order for creative to improve, they say.
For one, clients must refuse to operate in a "climate of fear" where saying no is easier than greenlighting a controversial idea. Brands must avoid sticking with the status quo and extensive hierarchy approvals. Both inhibit results. "Clients are trained to avoid risk," says Lubars.
At the same time, agencies cannot be "maliciously obedient and say yes yes yes," says Lubars. “You will yes yourself out the door because you don't add value,” he said. “You have to push back.”
Research is critical to execution. However, it needs to be backed by "our own judgement," says Lubars. "If pretesting was a great way to great adverting, the world would be full of great advertising. It is not."
Too many advertisers "confuse strategy with insight and confuse execution for insight," says Lubars.
The agency-client relationship needs to take gambles in order to develop good creative. You need to be willing to fail, they say. It is a marriage. These two companies got into heated arguments over "creative cultural shock."
Just a few years ago, for instance, Mars' creative for Wrigley Extra Key Lime Pie was illustrative of the so-called conventional wisdom. The 15-second spot mentioned the brand within five seconds, touted key product perks, and overloaded the senses with cutting-edge computer generated animation. The resulting bomb of visuals delivered nothing, says McColl.
Then Mars and BBDO realized that the issue wasn’t about the flavor of the gum, but the feeling one gets from chewing it.
Over a soulful version of Elvis Presley's I Can't Help Falling in Love, for example, an Extra TV spot captures a courtship from high school to marriage. The ad received more than 148,000 posts within 24 hours and the song became a top-downloaded song on iTunes. "Who thought you could make someone cry with gum?" asks McColl.
Other creative leaps under this partnership include forgoing the standard dog food spot for Pedigree to showcase how dogs help prisoners reclaim their lives after they are released.
And Snickers stumbled upon a new international platform after a one-off social media project in the UK purchased ads alongside the 250,000 most misspelled words. "Who knew so many people put in hangry when they are hungry?" says McColl.